OT: 11 December 1915 – T.D.M. “The MacCrimmons”

The Oban Times, 11 December, 1915

The MacCrimmons

8 December, 1915

Sir,–In your correspondent’s letter last week it is stated that the MacCrimmons were originally located in Skye and Harris. Of this there is no evidence. All that is absolutely known is that they were pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, and the founders of the famous school of pipers referred to by Miss Whyte.

There is a legend that the first of the name was a musician whom one of the MacLeods took with him from a place called Cremona, in Italy, when MacLeod of the day was on his way home from participating in one of the Crusades, and that the name was assumed from the supposed place of his origin. Of this also there is no evidence, and I believe it may be regarded as a mere legend.

The name is on record in Ireland as early as the sixth century, when “Criomthann” of the Royal House of Tara, married a Princess Nar, a son of this marriage was Fearadach, a famous Irish King, of the sixth century. This King Fearadach was therefore the first “son of Criomthann,” or MacCrimmon of whom there is any record. Common surnames were not then in vogue, nor for many centuries afterwards, but it is reasonable to suppose that the name would appear periodically in the course of the centuries until the time when common surnames did come in vogue. MacLeod, of Harris, of Dunvegan and of Glenelg, was the same individual in each generation of the line, until as late as the 18th century, when MacLeod of that day sold Harris to his own cousin, MacLeod of Bernera.

But Glenelg was the original territory of the clouds, and the MacCrimmons were numerous and Glenelg since time immemorial. There were several families of them there during my own school days in Glenelg, and there are still one or two families of the name left.

On the top of a hill known as Glaisbheinn, and which at that part forms the boundary between the parishes of Glenelg andGlenshief and the counties of Inverness and Ross, there is a cairn known as “Carn nan Criomthannaich.” “The MacCrimmon’s Cairn.” The tradition connected with it is that a green plot of land known as “Lionag na comhstrith,” (“the disputed green”), bounded on each side by a deep burn, two of the numerous burns that run down that side of Glaisbheinn into the sea at Kylerhea, was claimed by the chiefs of both Glenelg and Kintail (Glenshiel being part of the property of the latter). The followers of both chiefs determined that the claim should be decided by the sword. MacLeod was represented by a body of MacCrimmon, said to be one hundred strong, John being the Christian name of all of them. The chief of Kintail was represented by a body of Mathesons. The MacCrimmons had possession of the summit of Glaisbheinn at nightfall, where they bivouacked with the intention of renewing the conflict next day. A traitor named MacCuaig contrived to be among them, and he also contrived to have himself appointed sentry during one of the watches. Finding the MacCrimmons all asleep during his turn of duty, he informed the Mathesons, with the result that these MacCrimmons were all murdered in their sleep by the Kintail men. Carn nan Criomthannach commemorates the events.

The name being on record in the early Irish M.S.S., the likelihood is that the MacCrimmons are of native Irish origin, and may indeed have been in Glenelg prior to the MacLeods.–I am, etc.,